Of­fi­cial: N.J. train speed es­ti­mated well over limit

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Michael Bal­samo

HOBO­KEN, N.J. — Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors es­ti­mate a com­muter train was trav­el­ing two to three times the 10 mph speed limit when it slammed into a New Jer­sey rail sta­tion last week, a U.S. of­fi­cial said Tues­day.

The of­fi­cial, who was briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said in­ves­ti­ga­tors es­ti­mated the train was mov­ing be­tween 20 and 30 mph when it crashed into Hobo­ken Ter­mi­nal on Thurs­day. The of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to speak about an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The speed es­ti­mate is based on the ex­tent of dam­age and not on data from the train’s in­stru­ments.

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­cov­ered a data recorder, video recorder and the en­gi­neer’s cell­phone from the front car of the train Tues­day and sent them to an agency lab for anal­y­sis.

Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board in­ves­ti­ga­tor James South­worth said they don’t yet know if the recorders con­tain any use­ful in­for­ma­tion.

Ac­cess to the de­vices had been ham­pered by de­bris from the crash.

South­worth said it would be at least a day be­fore in­ves­ti­ga­tors are able to move the crashed train. He said New Jer­sey Tran­sit ser­vice into and out of Hobo­ken wouldn’t re­sume be­fore then.

A sec­ond data recorder, in the lo­co­mo­tive at the rear of the train, wasn’t func- tion­ing the day of the crash and didn’t record speed, brak­ing or other in­for­ma­tion about the trip, the NTSB has said.

That recorder was built in 1995. The recorder re­cov­ered Tues­day was made in 2003, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

En­gi­neer Thomas Gal­lagher’s cell­phone was found in a back­pack in the cab of the front train car.

At a brief­ing Tues­day, the NTSB’s South­worth de­clined to address the train’s speed. “We’re not pre­pared to make that state­ment right now,” he said.

One woman stand­ing on a plat­form was killed by de­bris as the train smashed through a con­crete-and­steel bumper and knocked out pil­lars, caus­ing a sec­tion of the sta­tion’s out­door roof to col­lapse. More than 100 peo­ple were in­jured.

Gal­lagher told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he had no mem­ory of the crash but said he was op­er­at­ing at 10 mph as he ap­proached the sta­tion, said T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the vice chair of the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board. NTSB in­ves­ti­ga­tor Michael Hiller re­cov­ers a data recorder from the train that crashed last week.


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